OTR Interviews

Did Attorney General Eric Holder Play the Race Card with His Critics?

Attorney general suggests extremist critics target him and Pres. Obama because they're both African-American

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 19, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: More trouble for Attorney General Eric Holder. Congress wants him back in the hot seat. The request comes from a House Oversight Committee, and it comes as the embattled attorney general he fires back at critics, sparking a whole new controversy.

In an interview published yesterday, Attorney General Holder talked about his critics. Mr. Holder said he believed the more extreme segment were motivated by animus against Mr. Obama and that he served as a stand in for him. "This is a way to get at president because of the way I can be identified with him," he said, "both due to the nature of our relationship and, you know, the fact that we're both African-American."

Now Attorney General Holder is being accused of playing the race card. Tonight the Justice Department gave us this statement. "That is a complete distortion of the attorney general's comment. His comments both in the article and elsewhere made clear that he believes much of the criticism is launched against him are unfortunately the typical Washington gotcha game. A simple reading of those comments show he was referring to how he is identified with the president given their close relationship and all they share in common including their ideology. The position of the attorney general has been a target for partisan attacks, and given the critical work that this attorney general he is doing at the Department of Justice, it's no surprise that some are engaging in such tactics. His critics rightly view the attorney general is a progressive force, and given our current political environment, there will those who use any opportunity to score political points."

Congressman Trey Gowdy recently questioned the attorney general about Operation "Fast and Furious" and he has called for his resignation. Congressman Gowdy joins us. Good evening, sir.

REP. TREY GOWDY, R-S.C.: Good evening. How are you?

VAN SUSTEREN: Very well. So let's get right to what has people up in arms tonight. Is he playing the race card in answer to your call for his resignation and his testimony before the hearings and he's getting grilled?

GOWDY: His first comments were different from the press release they just released. He didn't talk about his ideology in his first comments. He talked about race. And "Fast and Furious" has nothing to do with race. Questions we asked and how this conceived investigation got off the ground is as race neutral as anything will find in this culture.

So I am bitterly disappointed. I hope he will take those comments back. To criticize your critics and accuse them of racism when you have legitimate questions about the top law enforcement official of this country does not serve him very well.

VAN SUSTEREN: I've known him for years, and what is deeply disturbing to me is it seems like there is pretty easy answers. Who knew about fast and furious, who authorized it, and who is the highest ranking person? Those questions haven't been answered. Do you have an explanation why those questions have not been answered? Why we won't tell you?

GOWDY: He keeps talk about the inspector general, and the IG has been investigating since February. When a federal judge asked about a Brady issue you don't hide behind an IG report. When a committee in Congress asks you who knew what, when in "Fast and Furious," who approved it, what d role did they play, you can't hide behind an IG investigation.

We are branch of government, whether he likes it or not, that is coequal with the executive branch. We're going to continue to ask the questions. He can answer as slowly as he wants to but we have scheduled another appearance for him in January, January 24th, and it's not going away. It's not political. It's not partisan. It's not Washington gotcha. You have a dead patrol agent. You have dead Mexican citizens. If we didn't ask him these questions, we should be run out of town.

VAN SUSTEREN: I'm not sure he understands whoever authorized this -- he said "Fast and Furious" was a terrible idea. Everyone said that. But to identify who authorized it, and that person poor decision could make another really bad decision. Why he doesn't want to identify those other people so we don't have other really bad decisions in the future. I don't understand why it will take until February?

GOWDY: His chief of staff knew about "Fast and Furious" early in 2010. He looked at a map that was recovered in Mexico. How did these guns from Arizona get to Mexico? His chief of staff, Lanny Breuer is another man he would have to call. His head of the criminal division is another name he would have to call. He knew it took place in 2010. So either out of a misguided sense of loyalty to Lanny Breuer, or maybe he is protecting someone even higher than his criminal chief of staff.

VAN SUSTEREN: Who appointed the inspector general to this, and who authorized this?

GOWDY: He did. He did it after Senator Grassley wrote the letter, after he sent the demonstrably false response in February which they then withdrew. And then he appointed an inspector general in February.

VAN SUSTEREN: Can you call the inspector general call the inspector general and say where are you in your report? Can you answer this particular question, who authorized it.

GOWDY: That was such a good question you had last time, and it was so good I shared it with Chairman Issa. You don't want to create the appearance of interfering of what is supposed to be an independent investigation. The world could come to an end before this --

VAN SUSTEREN: A written interrogatory with the question under oath, who authorized, can you send that?

GOWDY: You probably can. I think what might be even better than that is to ask, can you give us and idea when you will be completed.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would it take about the halls of justice, why is the inspector general taking since last year coming up? You can't give any explanation that would not harm the investigation or in any way general does. Could he get an explanation, what is taking so long, how many people are you talking to how many documents gone through? What other projects -- can you least find out that?

GOWDY: We could if you will defend us when we are accused as a former criminal defense attorney, if you will defend us, because as you know the independent investigation --

VAN SUSTEREN: Let's ask for a time clock. That is not going away, when are we going to find out and what is taking so long?

GOWDY: That is a fair question.

VAN SUSTEREN: Then we go to the substance?

GOWDY: That a fair question, and next time I see you, I'll have you an answer.

VAN SUSTEREN: Good. We'll have you back real soon, then. Congressman, thank you, sir.

GOWDY: Thank you.